Archives for July 2015
Preaching this morning is Brian Crisp. A former chairman of Pullen’s Missions & Outreach Council, Brian has just completed the first year of his studies as a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University.
Text: 2 Samuel 11:1-15
It is not uncommon for me to ask my colleagues walking the hallowed halls of that august divinity school rather poignant questions such as, “Really, in the cinematic adaptations, who do you think played the better David?” Most of the time such interrogations are met with bewilderment and silence. Yet, those of you in this congregation know that, although embracing the full frivolity of the moment, these questions are posited with purpose. Most of the time.
Hollywood has constantly turned to the Hebrew scriptures for inspiration, and in doing such, has never fallen short of celluloid reproductions of the ancient monarch. The King of Israel has been fleshed out in mediums from animation to lavish melodramas. The Italians, although going for a rather unknown actor to play David, did convince Orson Welles to roam the Israeli countryside portraying an avant-garde Saul in the stark David e Golia. Glossing over any relationship with Jonathan, The Story of David features Jeff Chandler in a pioneer-inspired portrayal that mirrored Chandler’s more famous role as Cochise in the 1950 western, Broken Arrow. Atticus Fitch, I mean Gregory Peck, kept his resolve but lost the legal jargon to dramatize the monarch in the blockbuster love story, David and Bathsheba. The 1980’s, adhering to its nature, produced an over-the-top indulgent epic King David that featured a young Richard Gere scantily clad in an ahistorical ephod dancing for over five minutes before the Ark of the Covenant. Because I am amused so much with this scene, I often open the YouTube clip, mute the volume, and play other music from my library as the soundtrack. This works rather well with “I’ve Got the Horse Right Here” from Guys and Dolls, a musical selection that emphasizes the ancient Israelite’s proclivity for raising amazing horses. Particularly, I love it with “Dancing Machine” by the Jacksons or Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Although Gere’s gyrations could not save the film from box office disaster, they can provide moments of levity, and the movie’s trailer continues to catch my attention. Over muted trumpeters and roaring chariots, a narrator firmly proclaims the rightful status of Israel’s ancient ruler: “David, a name for a hero. The lover of Bathsheba. The slayer of Goliath. The rebel. The fighter. The King.”
This is the David we like to remember: a hero, a rebel, a fighter, a king, a lover of Bathsheba. I would imagine that many of us have memories of hearing the story of David and Bathsheba in Sunday school as we sat around felt boards decorated with pristine characters overly clothed and white washed into a sanitized romantic relationship where hand holding seemed scandalous. Although Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward are a little less sanitized in their portrayals, Bathsheba is given a stunning necklace as David proclaims her virtuous, and in a great moment of melodrama, Bathsheba praises her king’s nobility. And scene. Fade to black.
The more fortunate amongst us, if lucky, have heard the word “adultery” associated with this story. Perusing the multiple educational resources for this passage, one of the major denominational publishing houses in a lesson provided for elementary-age children titled, “Even David Sinned,” suggested the children dramatize the story of David and Bathsheba. Upon reading that recommendation, I texted Nancy Petty and asked “Really? Really?”
Texts: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Are you disturbed? This week, I was disturbed to learn that President Obama is the first sitting president in 239 years to step foot inside of a federal prison. Dostoyevski, the great Russian novelist of the 19th century, said “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Yet, it was not until 2015 that an elected chief executive of our nation entered one of the prisons he holds ultimate authority over. Thank God he did, but why did it take so long? Are you disturbed?
Are you disturbed that less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives within the United States, but we hold nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners? Are you disturbed that the $80 billion spent annually to maintain our incarceration system could pay the tuition for every single student at every public university and college in our country? Or that $80 billion could provide universal pre-school for every 3- and 4-year-old in the United States? Instead, we use it to keep men, women and children—especially men, women and children of racial and ethnic minorities—locked up, beat down and disenfranchised? Are you disturbed about that?
Are you disturbed that 50 years after the voting rights act was passed prohibiting poll taxes, voting vouchers and tests designed to keep black citizens’ hands off of the reigns of power, millions of our fellow citizens have lost their ability to vote because of past criminal convictions, often for non-violent crimes, to say nothing of the scarlet letter “F” that keeps them from accessing jobs pay a living wage—and makes finding decent housing practically impossible? God says “You are my beloved child,” while our society says “You are defined by the worst thing you ever have done.” Are you disturbed?
The following speech was given before the Raleigh City Council on behalf of Congregations for Social Justice on July 7. The meeting was held to discuss the city’s proposed UDO.
I am Cathy Tamsberg, associate pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, and I am here today as the facilitator of Congregations for Social Justice. CSJ is multi-faith and multi-racial and includes members of nearly 40 congregations and nonprofits in Raleigh. We are committed to advocacy for public policies that will create a better Raleigh for all people, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. Affordable housing has been a focus of ours since our founding nearly a decade ago.
We are here today to affirm the efforts of both the council and city staff to seriously address the growing shortage of affordable housing in our city. We want to urge you to become pro-active, think and act outside the box, and perhaps even take some risks for the individuals and families who need your help the most – some of whom are employees of the city.
Between 2000 and 2012, Raleigh experienced a 97% growth in its poor population. (In 2000, 66,177 families were considered poor by federal standards. This number grew to 130,342 in the 2008-2012 count). This growth increases the need for workforce and affordable housing well beyond the number of units we have been able to develop in the recent past. As our city continues to grow and more and more affordable units are re-developed into high-end housing, we cannot just do a little better with the programs and funding sources we have in place and expect to solve this problem. Affordable housing is necessary for the health of our city. Economic segregation is no better for us than racial segregation.
How can you solve this problem? With political will and a commitment not only to doing the right things, but doing them in the proper sequence to ensure success.
First, approve your draft Affordable Housing Plan, draft Downtown Visioning Plan, and draft Scattered-Site or Housing Replacement Plan. All of these plans, when approved, will affect other plans and actions being considered by the council. Please begin your efforts to lead here, work out the details and put these plans in place before you approve more and more re-development in the city.
Second, adopt best practices and new housing ideas from around the country and push the current envelope. The number of units needed is huge. Do not be afraid of the real number. Start there, not with the idea of what we can do with current staffing or funding, or what we have been able to accomplish in the past. Determine the true need in the city and address it.
Third, housing leaders in our city are ready and willing to assist you. A housing commission or extended time task force is used with considerable success in many other cities. A commission would help you focus on this issue and assist with the work that needs to be done.
We are grateful for the attention you and the staff are giving to this issue and we will assist in any way we can. If Raleigh is going to be the fair, compassionate and dynamic community we all want it to be, we simply have to make decent, affordable housing available to all of our neighbors. We can’t honestly call ourselves a great city until all of us have a decent place to call home.
Text: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
Over these past years of following the lectionary in my preaching I have learned to be curious, if not suspicious, when the lectionary skips over verses within a particular story or text. Such was the case this week when I read the assigned lectionary text 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19. What, I wondered, had been skipped over in verses 6-12a. Well, let’s see.
“When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of YHWH was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. David was angry because YHWH had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is call Perez-uzzah, to this day. David was afraid of YHWH that day; he said, ‘How can the ark of YHWH come into my care?’ So David was unwilling to take the ark of YHWH into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of YHWH remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and YHWH blessed Obed-edom and all his household. It was told King David, ‘YHWH has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’”
As I suspected, in leaving out verses 6-12a the lectionary skipped over the unsavory part of this story of King David. In an attempt to sanitize and clean-up this story of the great King David the lectionary had taken out the parts about God’s anger and David’s humanity and the opportunity for us to wrestle with a most significant question, “How we use God for our own purposes.”